Faith, Grace, Uncategorized

Honor Your Father

Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:1-3

Sometimes it’s really hard to lead your kids to obey scripture.

Over the last seven years, I have constantly encouraged my kids to honor their father, a direct command from scripture. In most areas, I am pretty good about taking the lead, about modeling obedience.

But when the father of your children has hurt you deeply, rejected you, caused you untold pain, it’s often hard to model to your children how to honor him.

I really have tried hard to walk the very fine line between honoring him and making sure they knew what behaviors were not acceptable (adultery). I’ve tried not to talk negatively, to make him out to be a bad person. We have prayed together for him, for his relationship with them.

And, I’ve done what I can to help the kids honor him. I always made sure my kids had opportunity and money to buy him a gift for every special occasion: Father’s Day, birthday, Christmas. Even when I wanted to be angry that my efforts were not only never acknowledged but also never reciprocated, I chose to keep my mouth shut.

My children had freedom to talk to their dad and see him any time they wanted, even if it wasn’t “his” time according to the visitation schedule. I can only think of one time when my kids wanted to stay an extra day, and I chose to make them come home (with good reason).

But now he’s gone.

My kids don’t have any more opportunities to honor their father here on earth. They only have their memories, the mementos from their brief years with him.

And so, on this Memorial Day weekend, I wanted to help them have a special time of remembering him, of his service to our country.

My ex-husband was buried with full United States Military honors. The flag. The honor guard. Taps.

Cole, my younger son, is a military/police fanatic. He’s all about love of country, right after love of God and family. And I knew the military aspect of the funeral would be overwhelming to my kids. And I knew the flag would be a treasure. A treasure that was presented to the kids’ grandmother.

The thought was born on that very day, at the very moment when I realized there would be a military burial: I knew I needed to get three flags, one for each of my children. I had no idea how. I had no idea when. But I knew I needed to honor their dad’s memory.

Through the help of a small army of friends, my dream became a reality.

4778Thursday evening, I planned family pictures. What the kids didn’t know is that I had a full honor guard waiting for them. We approached these five uniformed Airmen, standing at attention, ceremonially still and silent. As the kids lined up, the honor guard went through the ceremonial folding of the flags. They then solemnly presented each child with a flag, one at a time, sharing heartfelt condolences and words of appreciation on behalf of a grateful country. Then, they silently and ceremonially walked away. 4795

The final precious moment was when Captain Joshua Villalobos approached the kids and the four of them bowed in prayer together. What an amazing end to an amazing tribute.

Why do I tell you all of this?

If you have walked through a painful divorce, do what you can to honor your child’s other parent. It’s hard. It’s painful. It’s the last thing you want to do when you’ve been deeply hurt.

But, your actions will go a long way to helping your kids grow and heal. They will see you put aside self for their greater good. They will know that you possess character and integrity in abundance. They will know you value obedience to God over anything else.4802

Some of the most memorable moments are often because we choose to put others before ourselves.

Don’t be hesitant to ask for help. My dear friend, Roy, was responsible for getting the flags. My friend, Aimee, helped me find Captain Villalobos. He lined up the honor guard. My friend, Sarah, took time out of her life as a newlywed to take pictures. My family dropped everything to watch, to support my kids. I’ve been told that we pulled off a feat that is nearly impossible outside a funeral service. I say we had divine intervention.

I could have never made it through this journey without the love and support of friends and family. Never underestimate the importance of surrounding yourselves with the right people.

For those of you have live in the United States, thank a veteran today. Sometimes it’s easy to become desensitized to the sacrifices of our military. They give selflessly, without regard for their own safety. When they are called upon, they are ready and willing to serve, wherever and whenever.

These amazing members of the United States Air Force had never met me, my children, or my ex-husband. And yet, they jumped in, embraced the vision, and made an evening my children will treasure forever.

My kids no longer have their father on this earth. They can never again hear his voice or embrace him. They have nothing left but the handful of pictures and gifts that he gave them.

But they now have a memory, forever etched in photographs, an evening they will never forget. The flags are safely tucked away in shadow boxes, and they will carry them throughout their lifetimes.

It’s certainly the least I could do to honor the man who gave me my three most treasured gifts.

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24 thoughts on “Honor Your Father”

  1. Wow. What an amazinfg tribute and memories for your children! The pictures and your narrative and all the people who contributed to this wonderful evening are proof of God’s hand in our world. This made my day.

  2. One of the most heart touching stories I’ve read. Thank you Dena for this beautiful tribute of honor you and your friends presented to your children. Priceless!!

  3. Dear Dena thank you so much for sharing this sad moment from your heart.I too have experienced adultery by my now ex husband. It devastated me and our two daughters. Is it possible to share this letter of yours on Facebook.Please let me know.God bless you and your children.Sincerely,Julie

    1. Yes, Julie! You can find my personal Facebook page (Dena Johnson) or my ministry page (Dena Johnson Ministries – there’s a button on my blog if you aren’t on the mobile version). You can certainly share from there!

  4. That was absolutely beautiful. I am amazed at your strength and level of forgiveness. God Bless You and may He give to you the peace that surpasses all understanding.

  5. Thank you. My forner husband was an Air Force pilot. My son is now an airline pilot. He wouldn’t talk to him for 10 yrs because he left the family, but decided to start talking again. I was glad because a guy needs his dad and because they could share with each other about planes. It hurts bc he is good friends with his dad and his dad’s new wife and now shuns me, but I guess if people can change allegiances that easily, then I should learn that Jesus went through the same thing being rejected by those he loves and has cared for and thought they had a good relationship.

    Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

    1. Oh, Bev! I’m so sorry! I had always prayed my kids would one day have a relationship with their dad, but certainly never at my expense. I pray that your son will find a way to love you both, to make room in his heart for you both. I pray that He gives you strength and courage in the painful days, and wisdom and discernment on how to proceed. Hugs and prayers!

  6. Oh Dena. May God richly bless you. This post brought tears to my eyes and a lump formed in my throat. You demonstrated such a marvelous and honoring thing for your precious children. I know that the three of them will remember that moment forever, and treasure what you planned and coordinated just for them. You showed your kids what honor really means and above all what love is. In spite of your pain and hurt you rose above that to be the mother that your children are so blessed to have. They will rise up and call you blessed! I hope and pray that I can demonstrate the same kind of grace to my ex in front of my four children. You are an example for me. Thank you and God bless you!

  7. My husband and I plan to tell my 8 yr old granddaughter that the woman she calls mom is not her bio mother. My son was very rebellious and involved w drugs. He latched on to a girl that was bi-polar and very street smart. She did not understand that she was not a good mom. Her mom before her has mental problems and that was the life she knew. Anyway, she was so manipulative and lied and stole and neglected her children, one of which was my grandchild. Both her girls were removed by DCFS and placed in our home. We went out of our way to help this girl but she was so manipulative and could not be trusted that I had a nervous breakdown. Anyway, she lost custody and my son hooked up with another girl and had a baby boy. This girl also is bipolar but was not so manipulative. The kids are 10 months apart in age and the other girl had caused so many problems that we felt it was best to just leave her out of the picture. However, DCFS was still involved and these 2 kids were removed and placed in our care because of my son’s addiction. The boy was returned home to his mom and the girl was not. For one she had no legal rights to the girl and second, her personality was too strong for my granddaughter and their personalities clashed. We are in the process of adopting the granddaughter and have contact w/ our grandson. The meat of the story is we have decided to tell Summer, our granddaughter about her bio mother on Monday with the counselor. We have no idea what to expect or how she will react. Please pray for God to give us the right words to say. I don’t want to be cruel about the bio mom but it is very painful (much more involved story than I could write here).

    1. Lord Jesus, our lives can be so confusing, even as we do our best to follow you. I pray for this precious family as they do their best to honor you and the parents of this precious child. Protect their hearts and minds. Pour out your grace and your peace. I pray that you would superintend every moment, every word. May they point their granddaughter back to you, and may she always see their–and your–great love for her. In Jesus name I pray, amen.

  8. Dena,

    This is simply awesome! You have always done what God says to do and honoring their father was the best thing you could do. It was an honor to be able to help in any way I could. God said “Go”. He didn’t say than about it or get some training first so you know what to do, he said GO. I’ve learned if we go when HE says to go, he will take us where we need to go. That’s all I did, I listened to God and went. You and your family are inspiring to many but especially me.

  9. Everything you write touches me, blesses me and brings tears to my eyes. You are a beautiful representation of our Lord Jesus. Your children are so blessed to have you as their Mom.
    May God bless you with favor, His abounding grace, peace and joy.

  10. Dena,

    You never fail to amaze me with your strength and love. What a wonderful thing you did not only for your kids, but for your ex husband. You have honored everyone including God.
    My ex husband is in ICU right now after a motorcycle accident, I plan to fly my kids up there when he wakes up to see him and so he can see them. Even though it will be costly because of the distance, it’s the right thing to do.

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